As the digital age fully takes hold of modern society, the traditional concepts of a library, archives, museum are evolving into something far beyond just a place where books are stored. And as these institutions change, so too must librarians, archivists, curators, and media specialists and the resources they manage (https://tinyurl.com/y9hr2txj). Google Classroom , just as SharePoint, is designed to help them effectively manage document sharing and provide feedback to the users of their collections on Google Drive for Google Classroom (or MSDE with SharePoint). Classroom and SharePoint can replace or work alongside your existing solutions (i.e. integrated library management system, archival collections management system, etc).
Google Classroom, just as SharePoint, is designed to be used by non-IT users without too much input from IT or Tech Support. Unfortunately, the initial set-up for SharePoint is IT related unless you are using a hosted site giving rights to all of the features available. Google Classroom only requires a Google account and then you can build your Google Classroom up as you would a SharePoint site with your choice of modules to use for your work needs in less than 5 minutes per classification.
Do you want to show archived video to your collection’s users? I had archived videos of a 10 year study I performed on a local natural resource, Lake Artemesia. To share the videos with students, parents, teachers, and administrators, I created a Google Classroom that allowed all of these user types to experience Lake Artemesia through engaged exercises by answering questions after watching the videos. This could also be a mini tour of your collection for your collection users to experience before coming to the actual exhibit onsite (see https://librariansandlibrarymediaspecialists.blogspot.com/2017/12/3-steps-for-quick-management-of.html).
In my previous blog postings, I have identified that discovery programs (maker space) that librarians and library media specialists create require busying the hands of young children when working in elementary schools that cover grades Pre-K to 6th. The same could be said when dealing with fellow co-workers during online conferences conducted for office staff. The topic for the In-house Field trip or office webinar may be developed by a librarian or library media specialist. 4 Steps could be implemented in order to have the ability to busy the hands of children and adults while the guest speaker is talking and interacting back and forth with the audience (see https://librariansandlibrarymediaspecialists.blogspot.com/2017/12/quick-and-dirty-roadmap-to-classroom.html)
A years-long project at the State Archives of North Carolina has culminated with the publication of the first Functional Schedule for North Carolina State Agencies. Where state agencies have previously relied in a General Schedule for State Agency Records and hundreds of program-specific schedules, now all state agency officials have one 16-part retention and disposition schedule to guide them in the management of their public records.
In 2015, the Records Analysis Unit of the Government Records Section at the State Archives of North Carolina (SANC) began a project to revamp the retention and disposition schedules for state agencies in North Carolina. Our overarching goals of the project were to simplify records retention, make the assignment of records dispositions more transparent, and ensure the retention of records with permanent value, either within the creating agency or at the State Archives. We embraced the technique of functional analysis, whereby the functions of an institution are defined and the records that document these functions are linked. Sixteen functions of North Carolina state government were identified, their record types listed, and disposition instructions provided.
Over 200 stakeholders from across North Carolina state government participated in meetings to review draft schedules for each of the 16 functions, and many staff at SANC in addition to the Records Analysis Unit also provided constructive feedback. After these schedules reached their final draft stage, records analysts worked in concert with state agencies to crosswalk their records inventories to the new functional schedule.
These functional schedules standardize disposition instructions across State government and focus on the function of government that necessitates the creation of a record rather than on the particular agency that creates or maintains the record. Therefore, users will not need to find relevant record types based on agency hierarchy but instead can identify record types relevant to the particular function of government they perform. In addition, if the responsibilities of an agency change over time, the appropriate retention and disposition instructions for the records generated by this new function are already identified among the 16 functions identified above. Realizing that an increasing share of state agency records are being created and maintained electronically, we attempted to group records with similar functions in “big buckets” in order to facilitate the appropriate disposition of these records that are housed in document management systems.
And it came to pass that Brad was preparing materials for records management training sessions, as one does;
And the frustration with the records management practices put in place by his predecessor did boil over.
Then did Brad throw together a quick-and-dirty records management graphic, and he shared it on Twitter for a lark.
Lo! That graphic became Brad’s most RT’ed Records Management-related post ever, for Brad hath toucheth a nerve.
…Enough of that. Anyway, I put this together to deal with the new type of decentralization in place at the City of Milwaukee, to wit the records
coordinator network. On the one hand, having dedicated records people in departments is nice and cuts down on your workflow… but the records management experience of these folks is, shall we say, varied, as is their control of the schedules their department may already have in place. As a result, my big records retention project for the first year or so here is eliminating the duplicate, obsolete, and superseded schedules in our database, of which there are 4500, give or take a few dozen. So, that’s a thing.
In any case, due to the unforeseen popularity of the 10 RM commandments, Eira asked me to go through them in a bit more detail. After all, these are Milwaukee-specific, but they speak to some very basic records management principles and best practices. So with that, away we go:
I. THOU SHALT have a records schedule for every type of record created or used by your office.
This is the basic point of retention scheduling—you’re only going to get a complete picture of your records ecosystem if you have all of your records scheduled, because that’s going to tell you how the various series work together. My frustration here has been departments saying “well, we keep these forever so we don’t need a schedule, right?” Wrong. A schedule is still useful for permanent records because it provides business continuity—the rest of your office sees what records are in the series, what they’re used for, and that they even ARE permanent in the first place.
II. THOU SHALT NOT create schedules for non-official copies of records, unless those copies have special destruction requirements.
Seems pretty obvious to us as information professionals, but I cannot count the number of schedules in the database that are pretty obviously for copies of the official record, held by the official office. Given the ease in which copies, especially electronic copies, proliferate, the idea of the “non-record”, and the fact that you can destroy non-records when no longer useful in most cases, is critical. (There is a line of thought that the record/non-record distinction is obsolete; I don’t see it. You’re still looking for the record used to document the actual business transaction, and the fact that other copies can still be discovered is all the better reason to get rid of the non-record copies sooner.)
III. THOU SHALT NOT create records schedules before confirming that a schedule for that series (office-specific or global) does not exist.
Violation of this Commandment is why several records series in my database have 3 different record schedule numbers assigned to them. In most cases, these are created because the previous records schedule couldn’t be found in time for the submission to the WI public records board. This is testament to the need for a) the records manager to organize his/her/their schedules in a way that they will find them again later, and b) the records creator to maintain awareness of the department’s schedules and whether there’s an existing schedule for the documents he/she/they “discovered” in a closet.
Even better, use general schedules. These are easy to make available online, and you don’t have to worry about renewing a million specific schedules (see Commandment 9).
IV. REMEMBER that the existence of a records schedule does not imply a mandate for creation of that record series.
Currently, use of general schedules at the City is opt-in. I’ve already had one discussion where I was told a department didn’t want to opt in to a general schedule because “we don’t create all of the records on that schedule.” The response to this, of course, is, “That’s cool, you’re not obligated to. Records schedules specifically provide guidelines for existing records; they don’t make you create records for the sake of complying with the retention schedule.” This is not as much of a problem with specific schedules, for obvious reasons.
V. HONOR thy retention period; do not destroy records before they have expired.
Again, the whole point of retention periods, to wit giving you a time after which you can defensibly destroy/delete records. If your records creators are destroying records before that, they are doing anything from opening up their institution to spoliation sanctions, to actually breaking state or federal law, in the case of things like Sarbanes-Oxley records and records subject to public records acts.
What I *don’t* usually say in training is that most retention periods are minimums, and that the law doesn’t impose penalties for overretention except as part of the operational consequences of that decision (e.g. data is leaked that would not have been leaked had it been destroyed on time). I’m not going to *lie* if asked point-blank about it, but keeping quiet helps wear down the resolve of many a hoarder.
VI. THOU SHALT NOT create records schedules for the same records in different formats.
There are SO MANY of these in the City schedule database. SO MANY. People who do this are worse than Korach. THESE SCHEDULES ARE WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS.
Well, not really, but they ARE why records creators get confused about retention with multi-format series. “Now, do I keep the paper permanently and scrap the electronic, or do I convert all of it to Microfilm and THEN destroy it, or…” Keep It Simple, Smarty. Record value, being based on content rather than format, should remain constant regardless of format, so why bother with 3 schedules when one will do the job? (Having said that, it may be worth indicating that records from one format may be disposed of once converted to another, e.g. via imaging.)
VII. THOU SHALT group functionally-related records with identical retention periods into as few schedules as possible.
My predecessor *really* liked building records schedules. Unfortunately, this often meant that individual forms or document types would get their own schedules, creating 3-4 schedules where one would have done the job. In general, I have been encouraging departments with a lot of these mini-series, where the various records support the same function and require the same retention period, to supersede the smaller schedules with a broader one that encompasses the whole series vs. individual documents. I was able to eliminate 37 License Division schedules this way—the old way of doing things had individual schedules *for each type of license*, all with the same retention period. Unreal.
VIII. THOU SHALT NOT create records schedules for specific projects or time periods, unless the records are unique and/or scheduled for archival retention.
This is something that would happen from time to time at UWM as well, where departments would submit requests for records schedules for particular projects they were working on. This is, needless to say, not an efficient way to do records scheduling. If you just do one schedule for ALL project files, you cover retention needs for all similar records and don’t have to keep filling out the form every 9 months. The City introduced a new variant that I hadn’t seen before, where one series existed for records before a given date (1846-1900, say), and then a second for records after that date… but again, with the same description and retention period. This is making scheduling harder than it needs to be. Conservation of schedules never hurt anyone.
The one exception to this commandment is that if a series is no longer created, and either of historical value or needing a new records series in order to destroy it, I will reluctantly consent to a project-specific or date-limited series. My overall preference, however, is to go general when possible—and unless you like filling out the same schedule 50 times, it should be yours too.
IX. THOU SHALT review thy records schedules yearly and renew expiring schedules before they lapse (10 years after effective date).
In Wisconsin this is easy, because the Public Records law requires schedules to be renewed every 10 years in order to remain in effect. Fine… but the City of Milwaukee didn’t follow the procedures of the state records law for a long time with regards to schedule adoption, with the result that there are many, many schedules in my database that don’t have any expiration date at all. Even if the 10-year sunset period didn’t exist, however, it still would be a good idea to go through schedules periodically and make sure that they all reflect current workflows and legal and administrative needs, so I am not sure why that wasn’t done (Well, aside from the fact there were 5000 of them). So now I am doing the renewal and related research on updating schedules largely all at once for Department records, which does help me get a sense of what the different departments do or did. I would definitely rather do this a bit at a time rather than all at once, though.
X. THOU SHALT make the City Records Officer aware of any state, federal, or industry-specific legislation or regulations affecting retention or confidentiality of your series.
This Commandment is why Records Coordinators are so useful in the first place—they have knowledge of the specific industry or functional context of their own records in a way that a centralized records manager never will. As such, when writing retention periods, knowledge of any laws/regulations/etc. that govern the creators’ need to keep records around for a specific period of time is invaluable. Records Managers can, of course, look for inspiration in other institutions’ schedules for similar records, as well as in statutes and regulations they’re already familiar with for setting retention and privacy levels… but why go to the trouble if the records coordinator can just tell you “our professional organization suggests keeping these for 6 years”?
Thus did Brad share the rationale for his Records Management 10 commandments; Yea, he did so at his usual great length, approaching 2000 words.
Brad spaketh, “Please feel free to use/tweak these in your own institutions—they have served me well.”
Whereupon, he wandered off to call down the wrath of the Records Management LORD on those kids on his lawn.
Institutional archives and records management programs provide such a wide variety of services that institutions often “struggle to fit” them within administrative offices.
From July to December 2016, Jackie conducted a study on where records management and archival services are located within universities. She developed an online survey and visited all fifteen Big Ten Academic Alliance universities for on-site interviews with a variety of stakeholders. They discussed the needs, issues, successes, and failures for different models of placement.
Review the report and be sure to tune in live to ask questions or watch later at your convenience. You can view the Hangout here.
We will be accepting questions for our speaker from you. If you have a question or topic for discussion please leave it as a comment here or use the #saarms hashtag on Twitter. We will also monitor the comments on the YouTube live streaming page.
As many records managers note, recordkeeping decisions are in the news on a daily basis (with today’s accelerated news cycle, it often feels like an hourly basis!). Our last Resourceful Records Manager interview astutely noted, “As I first assumed RM responsibilities, I sat in on a conference talk by a leader in the field, who cited a news headline on records mismanagement and dissected it with great enthusiasm. As I realized that records implications are everywhere, the massiveness (and potential massiveness) of the profession made an impression on me.”
It’s increasingly clear that one of the major areas of public discontent is around disposition. Disposition is the decision that guides what should happen to records once they have reached the end of their useful value from the records creator’s point of view. Disposition can either take the form of destruction, or transfer to archives. I am enormously sympathetic to concern over this topic – there are very real worries that public records and data will disappear because it does happen – sometimes for normal reasons, sometimes for scary Orwellian reasons. However, not all disposition is created the same, and one of the most valuable things that records managers can communicate to the public is explaining the difference between what’s normal and what’s not normal when it comes to what should be destroyed and what should be saved.
This isn’t something that only records managers and archivists struggle with – our library colleagues navigating the rocky paths of weeding old books and media have their own public relations horror stories. Librarians and archivists know that a collection development policy is there not only to guide collecting decisions, but to protect librarians and archivists from future headaches (in this case, getting saddled with tons of out of scope collections or donations). A collection development policy is also in the public interest – a library or an archive so bogged down by a backlog of unprocessed and out of scope donations doesn’t serve the general public well at all.
I think of records retention schedules – in many institutional archives, the de facto collection development policy – performing a very similar role. You can’t keep everything due to resource constraints, and even if time and money were no object, you still shouldn’t keep everything from a liability perspective. On a hypothetical basis, the general public understands that all records can’t, and shouldn’t be, kept forever in an institutional setting. Where things break down with public understanding are questions of how long to keep those records, and what should happen to them after they are no longer actively needed.
This was vividly illustrated during some recent research I’ve undertaken on regulatory failures concerning hydraulic fracturing. The short version is that fracking technology and proliferation is far ahead of existing oil and gas regulations. The current regulatory environment cannot keep up with fracking’s environmental impacts, and failures of recordkeeping are a prominent part of larger regulatory failures. Many groups have been filing open records requests to try to understand the impacts of fracking on rural land and water. The Pittsburgh-based investigative reporters of Public Herald has done enormous work in this area, scanning citizen complaint records from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, and making them available through a public files website, and mapping the complaints. Many of these complaints trigger subsequent investigations into whether fracking has resulted in an impact on local water supplies. In other words, a “positive determination of impact” would mean that the Department of Environmental Protection found that fracking affected water supplies.
As much as I admire the work of the Public Herald, I strongly object to one of their assertions about a very normal recordkeeping issue. In their article claiming that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection systematically cooks the books, they laid out nine different methods to substantiate their argument. Some of the recordkeeping practices are indeed serious cause for alarm, but the final one (“DEP Retention Policy for complaint records says complaints are to be kept on file for five years, “then shred.””) struck me as a complete misunderstanding of retention scheduling. Scheduling records for destruction is not a method for manipulating records, and it’s disingenuous to claim otherwise.
The Public Herald wrote the following:
Around month twenty-eight of this investigation, sitting down to scan the last remaining complaint files, a paper with everything blacked out except one paragraph was left on Public Herald’s file review desk by a veteran PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) employee. It read “DEP retention policy.” In a paragraph about “Complaints,” the document revealed that the Department should only hold complaint records for five years after resolution – “then shred.”
Initially, Public Herald figured these records would be kept on microfiche or a digital PDF and that shredding them would only ensure space within the records office. But, after careful questioning with an employee who’s been with the agency for decades, the staff person revealed that only those records which could be considered “useful” would be kept on record at all, turned into microfilm, and “useful” meant only those listed in DEP’s 260 positive determinations. What shocked us even more is that, according to this whistleblower, there is no review committee in place to sift through the “non-impact” complaint records before they are shredded.
The Public Herald rightfully raises important and compelling questions about how DEP assesses the question of fracking’s impact. But only part of the retention schedule is posted – the remainder is redacted. Without having the full context of the retention schedule, we do not know what other information is kept for say, 100 years (as one of the redacted record groups appears to be), and it very well may be that information otherwise in the public interest is kept for much longer. I tried to do a quick search for the full schedule online – although I could not easily find it (one of my biggest pet peeves common to state agencies – for some reason, I find it easier to obtain municipal and federal agency records schedules), one could almost certainly obtain an unredacted version of it by filing a Pennsylvania Right to Know request.
Perhaps this is the first time Public Herald has encountered a retention schedule, but the presentation of this as a shady and strange document is truly unfortunate. Furthermore, the write-up demonstrates how little the public understands about why records are scheduled the way they are – which is that the vast majority of retention decisions begin, and often end with, “How long must we keep these records to fulfill legal obligations?” Simply put, what is to be gained by maintaining complaint records for more than 5 years, given that most local, state, and federal agencies can barely keep up with managing records as they are currently scheduled? Proposals to retain records even longer would have to make a very compelling reason for why.
Many of the applicable statutes of limitations associated with potential liability brought by complaints would fall within 5 years, so a 5 year retention period for both impact and non-impact determination records doesn’t seem abnormal. Furthermore, the suggestion that a review committee should determine the final disposition of individual records is a recipe for disaster. Public comment absolutely can and should inform the broad formulation of retention scheduling decisions – for example, if members of the public could make a compelling argument for retaining the complaint records more than 5 years, that is something that should be seriously considered and perhaps incorporated into retention policies. But a committee to review the final disposition outcome for individual complaint case files is not realistic, and would almost certainly result in far more political bias. Who would be on the review committee? How would they document their decisions? How fast would they be expected to work? Witness how slow and controversial federal records declassification is if you want a glimpse of what individual-record-determination-decision-by-committee would almost certainly look like in practice.
Bottom line: as many archivists have pointed out, there is almost nothing that is neutral about the world of records and archives. Many records retention scheduling decisions are areas that significantly misunderstood by the general public. It would behoove more records managers to talk openly and transparently about why and how we schedule records the way we do. Others may disagree with our decisions, but at least the process will be clearer to those encountering records retention schedules for the first time.
Update: At their request, this post has been updated to more accurately identify the Public Herald as investigative reporters.
And, now for our much awaited series: Resourceful Records Managers! This month we meet George Despres, the Program Director for University Records Management at Brandeis University. If you would like to be included in this feature please contact Jessika Drmacich, jgd1(at)williams(dot)edu.
What led you to choose your current career in Records Management?
After re-establishing an archives program at a prior company, I was promoted to head up the archives and records management team. The engagement and breadth of the records management program increasingly drew my interest.
What is your educational background?
A BA and some graduate school studies in History and a Masters Degree in Library and Information Science, with an Archival Management concentration. I also received my records management certification (CRM).
Do you or did you have a mentor who has helped you in the Records Management field?
I’ve been lucky to have several mentors. An undergrad professor encouraged me to work as a library intern, and that started my “info pro” career. Another mentor taught me how to work with stakeholders from across an organization – a critical skill for records management success.There are also many brilliant RM thought leaders who help keep me keep current with their social media and professional conference contributions.
How did you first become interested in Records Management?
As I first assumed RM responsibilities, I sat in on a conference talk by a leader in the field, who cited a news headline on records mismanagement and dissected it with great enthusiasm. As I realized that records implications are everywhere, the massiveness (and potential massiveness) of the profession made an impression on me. I also realized that RM would force me to keep up with technological changes that affect digital records. I was hooked.
What is your role at your institution?
I’m Program Director for a university-wide RM program that is almost four years old. I manage one professional assistant and have some part time student assistant support. Having established foundational paper records services (storage, shredding, scanning) I’m leading my program to new initiatives like retention schedule expansion; electronic file and data retention management; continued outreach and engagement, and guidance in RM and knowledge management best practices for Brandeis employees.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I work with every department in the organization and apply a comprehensive view of Brandeis, and information management in general. You get really dialed in to the processes that happen across the organization and learn something new about different professional roles and viewpoints every day. Sitting down with employees to discuss their particular records and info habits and needs is something that I could do all day long. Also, RM is difficult to socialize across an organization, and I love that challenge.
What would you consider to be your career highlight or greatest success?
I’ve had the opportunity to establish archives and records programs essentially from scratch. Putting these programs on the organizational map, with much help from others, has provided a deep sense of satisfaction. That said, there’s always room for program improvement.
What type of institutional settings have you worked in? Corporate? Government? Higher education? If more than one, how do they differ?
My first RM job was at a non-profit corporation, which ran several federally funded R&D centers (FFRDCs). The IT literacy bar was high, and the corporate feel was fast paced and results-oriented, which I liked. However, the environment was very confidential, so sharing my professional thoughts and experiences outside the company was difficult. This is different in academia, where I’ve been able to establish a blog and reputation among my RM peers by openly sharing professional views and experiences. Universities can also share their retention policies for benchmarking, which is very useful. The pace in academia has been a little slower than in corporate, and program funding can be comparatively modest, as well. In both cases, having at least some senior leadership support has been critical to program success.
What advice would you give to an individual considering Records Management as a career?
Information mismanagement is everywhere. There’s guaranteed to be at least one example in today’s (fake and real) news. This has serious ethical, financial, reputational, legal, and personal implications. We need an army of conscientious, passionate records professionals to bring this epidemic under control. It’s a very difficult battle in today’s world of digital records, with proliferation and flow of data everywhere. It’s also an exciting time for info managers. If you have the heart and a bit of a chip on your shoulder, join the fight and bring your best.
Do you belong to any professional organizations?
I was a member of SAA and NEA, and currently belong to ARMA. I’m serving as Education Director for the ARMA Boston chapter, planning a Certified Records Manager training event. I also chair a small group of academic archivists and records managers (Boston Area Archives and Records Committee/BAARC) that meets quarterly to share professional experiences.
Thoughts on the future of records management?
There has been speculation that artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain technology will replace and/or redefine much of our work. While I see this taking at least a few years to happen, the future records manager will need to follow industry and technical developments carefully and be agile and open-minded to midstream change. We will probably assume less of a custodial role and more of an analytics and rule-making one, automating record and data retention management on the back end and creating a new generation of control guidelines for a world of apps and devices in the Internet of Things.
What do you perceive as the biggest challenges in the Records Management field?
Rapid technology change is increasingly a challenge. We must be continually learning. Getting RM in a place where we can work side-by-side with IT and gaining senior leadership support will be critical and probably won’t be easy in many institutions. Finally, imposing control over digital records that go anywhere and everywhere, and overcoming organizational and civic cultures that accept this, will probably be the biggest challenges. Besides focusing on work, what are some of your other interests or hobbies?
I enjoy playing piano, keyboards and composing music, exercising, writing, reading, and travel.
Do you have a quote you live by?
I have five on my office wall that I try to live by:
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.
It’s better to attempt something great and fail than to do nothing and succeed.